Below are some of my published work.  

Connect Magazine

The Inquisitr

Discover the great wide world from home

With the current state of the world — a pandemic that no one saw coming and a near worldwide lockdown — it’s easy to go a bit stir-crazy without the freedom of movement that we’re used to.

Many people have turned to using social media to connect with the outside world, while others have resorted to more drastic moves like the “coronacut” — taking scissors and clippers to their hair out of sheer boredom or for that dramatic style they always wanted to try but have now found the courage to go for.

That said, staying indoors doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a lot of the things we were able to do before. In fact, quite a few forms of entertainment (and even edification) can be enjoyed right at home for no cost.

From live concerts, art exhibitions and theater shows to exercise classes, virtual tours, and even celebrities offering up free entertainment, there’s a wide array of content to keep you occupied during these dark days. And for those who have wee ones at home, we haven’t forgotten about you. See what tickles your fancy from the selection below.

Polish your camera skills

If you’ve always been interested in trying photography, or you want to hone your skills, now is the time. There are numerous online tutorials and resources available for free, such as Curtin’s Guide to Digital Cameras on, and Marc Levoy’s Lectures on Digital Photography, which can be found on YouTube as well as the official website.

Listen in’s Audible is giving the gift of audiobooks. They have released hundreds of books in six languages that children can listen to while they’re out of school — from modern stories like the Harry Potter series to classics and fairy tales that elementary school students through to high schoolers can delve into — as well as a selection for adults. Start listening using your laptop, phone or tablet.

Learn a language

“Children can continue to expand their horizon by learning a new language, and parents can ensure that the kids are using their time wisely,” says language learning company Rosetta Stone, which is giving children three months of free access to their language courses while they’re off school.

Art and culture

Galleries may be closed but some are allowing virtual access so you can still experience the works of artistic greats.

■ The Royal Academy of Arts in London is offering their “Picasso and Paper” exhibition free in a video tour. Their exhibition on Belgian artist Leon Spilliaert is also free. They even have a how-to lesson so you can flex your artistic muscles to create portraits using photography, painting or collage:

■ Take a trip around Dubai in the “Dubai 360” tour that will have you zooming around museums, parks, shopping centers, rooftop views and cultural landmarks.

Tour natural wonders

With quality technology right at our fingertips, we don’t have to venture out to see some of the great landmarks of the world. With just a few clicks, you can go on a tour from the comfort of your home. Here are eight famous places that you can enjoy virtually:

■ Hang Son Doong, Vietnam

Located in Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, the world’s largest natural cave is quite a recent discovery. Put on your explorer hat and go on this amazing high-definition tour of caverns and sinkhole jungles with National Geographic:

■ Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China

Home to impressive quartz-sandstone pillars, some towering over 1,000 meters tall, and the world’s highest and longest glass bridge, you can soar above this popular tourist spot and bask in the serenity of the view thanks to AirPano VR. Find the videos on YouTube and use the arrows for a 360-degree view, or check the AirPano website for more locations.

■ Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Ireland is known for its fair share of magic, and the Giant’s Causeway is no exception. This UNESCO World Heritage site is found at the foot of the basalt cliffs along Antrim’s Atlantic coastline in Northern Ireland, and is made up of 40,000 huge interlocking basalt columns sticking out of the sea. These geometric columns inspired the legend that giants built them to walk to Scotland. Take a virtual tour with Britain’s National Trust.

■ Namib Desert dunes, Namibia

The Namib Desert, said to be the planet’s oldest and driest desert at 55 million to 80 million years old, spans the Namib-Naukluft National Park on the southern African coast. It has UNESCO World Heritage status and is a popular attraction for its red-orange sculptural sand dunes that seem to have rusted with time. Explore this extraordinary area from the AirPano website as well.

■ Perito Moreno glacier, Argentinian Patagonia

Perito Moreno sprawls over about 250 square kilometers, is fed by the melting waters of the South Patagonia Ice Field and towers above the turquoise waters of Los Glaciares National Park. This wondrous site has scientists scratching their heads as, instead of shrinking like others around the world, this glacier is actually growing. The almost 60-meter-tall glacier and its surroundings offer visitors a beautifully pristine view. Enjoy the view on the 360 Cities website.

■ Grand Canyon, United States

The vast Arizona landmark is home to red basement rocks believed to be about 2 billion years old. With steep cliffs and meandering trails, this UNESCO site is one of the United States’ most famous landmarks. Hike the Bright Angel Trail via Google Street View Trek, explore its peaks via Google Earth, and view the red rocks from high above with AirPano.

■ The Northern Lights

The magical aurora borealis, or northern lights, is an otherworldly sight that comes about when electrically charged particles from the sun collide with the Earth’s magnetic field. This colorful dancing light show can be viewed above both magnetic poles in such places as Canada, Russia, Greenland, Scandinavia and Antarctica. There’s a live webcam in Manitoba, Canada, where you can catch it live, if you’re lucky — check and — but if you don’t want to wait, there are plenty of breathtaking 360-degree views on YouTube or AirPano.

■ Mount Everest, Nepal

Renowned as the world’s highest peak, you can explore Mount Everest’s snowy peaks, take a “walk” around the mountain range and bask in the beauty that attracts 35,000 visitors per year using Google Street ViewAirPano and Google Earth.

■ Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Take an interactive journey through the world’s largest coral reef system with naturalist legend Sir David Attenborough. Besides amazing imagery and scientific insight into this complex ecosystem, the virtual experience even offers “mantis shrimp vision.” Visit to dive in.

■ Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Famously linked to Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, the Galapagos Islands continue to be revered for their endemic wildlife. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage site with Catlin Seaview Survey’s virtual dive or go above and below the water with Google Maps.

For braver souls

Are you interested in something that’s more on the scary side? For people who are down for haunted mansions and the like, here’s a spooky virtual tour to enjoy under the cloak of the night.

■ The Catacombs of Paris

These tunnels were created in the late 18th century in Paris when cemeteries became overcrowded. They used the tunnels, known as catacombs, to house the relocated dead — more than 6 million people. You can make a virtual visit in eight languages on the Les Catacombes de Paris website.

Originally published here

Management, connections aided by long-lived passion


Name: Pascal Senkoff
Title: Managing Director of North Asia Levi Strauss K.K.
DoB: Sept. 27, 1962
Hometown: Nice, France
Years in Japan: 14

When thinking of sailing, the first things that come to mind for many people are likely freedom, open space and nature. For Pascal Senkoff, the managing director of North Asia Levi Strauss K.K., there’s more to this long-held passion than meets the eye.

Senkoff’s passion for sailing began in his childhood when he would go out on the water three or four times a week and partake in competitions throughout his youth. Little did anyone know that those hours spent on the water would hone him into becoming the businessman he is today.

According to Senkoff, the sailing competitions he participated in as a child have helped him a lot, especially when it comes to business.

“Sailing is all about anticipating and reading your environment to know what is around you and to be able to anticipate what’s coming next. And business is more or less the same — you need to be able to read the environment, competition, the price, the fashion, the trends … and to be ahead of your competition,” Senkoff said.

“I think that’s where my sailing background really helped me to be a better business person, by having this kind of capability to read and analyze the environment, and also to be able to read what could come next and to anticipate the next move,” he added.

This knowledge that Senkoff gained from his time at sea was put to good use when he joined Levi Strauss and, along with his team, was able to turn around the business and regain the iconic brand’s winning spirit.

“Levi’s Japan and Korea were very strong 10 to 15 years ago and basically lost a lot of revenue and exposure and market share,” Senkoff said. “We managed to fight back and we managed to turn around the business and now we are growing at double digits every year.”

Because of his competitive nature, one of Senkoff’s key achievements is that he and his team were able to prove, “We cannot lose, we are Levi’s — we have such a brand, strong equity, and we are winners.”

An example, Senkoff said, was in his team’s ability to change the mindsets of consumers and reintroduce them to the strength and staying power of Levi’s.

Senkoff’s time as a sailor not only helped to hone his future business skills; it allowed him the opportunity to interact with various cultures from an early age. This exposure ignited an interest in different cultures and ways of living, which ultimately led him to Korea and then Japan.

Now, as the jeans manufacturer’s managing director for North Asia, Senkoff is responsible for the retail operations of Levi Strauss K.K. for Japan and Korea. This responsibility, however, goes beyond his job title, as Senkoff believes that through his current position he can assist in building a bridge between Japan and Korea.

“What I enjoy and what I like about my job today is being able to bridge the two (countries),” Senkoff said.

Commenting on current political tensions between Japan and South Korea, Senkoff believes that having teams from both countries working together, and building trust and respect for each other may help alleviate some of the enmity that exists.

This, he said, makes his job at Levi’s a unique and interesting one because he’s able to facilitate this bridge.

“I’m kind of neutral because I’m not Japanese, of course, I’m not Korean, but I know these two countries very well to be able to put these two teams together and work together for the good of Levi’s,” Senkoff said.

This aspect of his role, overseeing a cross-functional team that spans the Japanese and Korean markets, is something that Senkoff has great pride in.

“When I see the respect, the trust those two teams have (for each other), I feel very proud about that because before me this position didn’t exist. Japan and Korea were separated and now (they) work under the same cluster,” he said.

The passion that Senkoff has for his job and company is clear. It reverberates through his words as he talks about Levi’s and the manifold possibilities of the brand.

Additionally, he believes that with Levi’s new head office’s location in Harajuku, Tokyo, the buzzing center of Japanese youth culture and fashion, many of these potentials can be explored and realized.

Senkoff fell in love with Harajuku over 20 years ago when he first encountered the free-spirited fashion that seems to emanate from the pores of the colorful district. And when the opportunity came for Levi’s to find a new home, his initial thought was, “This is where we belong.”

With the denim, youth and underground culture that Levi’s represents and Harajuku embraces, Senkoff saw this location as a perfect marriage of the two. Now, Levi’s Japan’s main office (with its offices, retail store and showroom all in the same building) sits in an area where the energy from the surrounding locale serves as a somewhat visceral representation of the brand.

For Senkoff, his personal motto to “Never give up” and his belief in learning from experiences and using them to grow certainly ring true. He has found a way to take the lessons he learned over the years and garnered interests to mold his life into one that he envisions.

“I think that if you have a very strong belief — with passion, with effort — you could succeed,” he said.

Adding that the difference between success and failure is, “With success you try one more time. … You could fail, but never give up and one day you will succeed.”

Interests mixed with business innovation

Originally from France, Pascal Senkoff has spent over 30 years working in the Asia-Pacific region. This began when he was offered a job at a cosmetic and pharmaceutical company in Korea. During his two-year stint there, he frequently traveled to Japan and eventually ended up falling in love with its culture. Senkoff soon got an opportunity to work in the apparel industry in Japan, and it was then that a deep ardor for fashion was ignited. This passion has taken him to his current position as the managing director of North Asia Levi Strauss K.K. There, he oversees Levi’s retail operations across Japan and Korea. Senkoff has a B.A. in marketing and an MBA from Institut Superieur de Gestion. He also completed Harvard Business School’s Executive Program and INSEAD’s Strategic Marketing Programme. Senkoff is a former member of the French national sailing team and is still an avid sailor.

Originally published here


Changing times for tattoos in Japan?

Tattooist Acquitted for Operating without Medical License by Japanese High Court


The art of tattooing in Japan has been blanketed in restrictions and stigmatizations for decades. This goes back to its association with the yakuza’s emergence in the early 20th century, when elaborate tattoos were a sign of membership to one of the organized crime groups. From this, a stigma has been attached to an art form that once held a prominent place in Japan’s history.

However, despite the low-key (and sometimes not so low-key) discrimination, the number of Japanese people who’ve been opting to get inked has been increasing over the years. So, in 2001, in an attempt to curb their enthusiasm and regulate the industry, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare looked to Article 17 of the Medical Practitioners’ Act (1948) which states that “No person except a medical practitioner shall engage in medical practice.”

This Act, however, does not clearly state what constitutes a “medical practice,” so the ministry sought to rectify this by issuing a notice which stated, “Harisaki ni shikiso o tsukenagara, hifu no hyomen ni suminado no shikiso o ireru koui” [lit. putting pigment on a needle tip and inserting ink into the skin] constitutes a medical practice that can only be carried out by those with a medical practitioner’s license.

Still, it wasn’t until 14 years later that the authorities got involved.

In 2015, the Osaka Prefectural Police started cracking down on the tattoo industry, and two tattoo artists were arrested for violating the Medical Practitioners’ Act. Before then, the notice was primarily used by health authorities to regulate cosmetic makeup tattoo practitioners. (1)

It was during the 2015 crackdown that the studio of tattoo artist Taiki Masuda (who founded the campaign group Save Tattooing in Japan that same year) was raided by Osaka police. His tattoo equipment was confiscated and he was arrested for having tattooed three customers at the time. Masuda was subsequently fined 300,000 yen for breaching the Medical Practitioners’ Act.

However, unlike other tattoo artists who were fined, Masuda refused to pay – and instead chose to take his case to the Osaka District Court for trial because he believed to accept the fine was to accept that tattoo artists in Japan are criminals.

Masuda talks about tattooing plight

Masuda’s trial, which was held between April and August 2017, garnered a lot of attention because of the major implications it could’ve had on the tattooing industry. He even had support from experts in Japanese criminal law, including respected university professors who testified in his defense. Still, the outcome was not in his favor, and on September 27, he was once again found guilty of violating the Medical Practitioners’ Act and ordered to pay a fine of 150,000 yen. According to the district court, tattooists need medical knowledge and expertise because “the treatment could possibly cause a skin lesion or allergy.” (2)

Once again, Masuda was opposed to giving up and chose to appeal the court’s ruling.

Then, on November 14, his determination paid off when the Osaka High Court overturned the district court’s decision and acquitted Masuda of operating without a medical license, ruling the process of tattooing is not a medical practice.

“The tattooing procedure is not relevant to medicine and it does not constitute a medical act controlled under the medical practitioners’ law,” said Presiding Judge Masaki Nishida during the ruling.

Masuda and lawyers

Masuda and lawyers after court win.

 This unprecedented win for Masuda will likely be far-reaching in its implications on the Japanese tattooing industry. And although this does not mean that societal perceptions will improve overnight, it does mean that the art form will not die a slow death in a country where it was once revered. Tattoo artists now have the hope of being able to practice their craft without fear and subjugation.

With the 2020 Olympics coming up, Japanese attitudes toward tattoos are definitely going to be challenged when the country is faced with an influx of foreigners and athletes who will undoubtedly be sporting an array of ink. Will Japan still insist on turning away tattooed individuals from public baths, beaches, and water parks – or will a more pragmatic viewpoint arise?



Originally published here

Groped on trains from 12 to 18: Japanese woman adds voice to global movement



In an age when phrases like “Time’s Up” and “#MeToo” resonate across social media platforms, podiums, and intimate conversations, women, not only in the U.S. but around the world, have been stepping forward to lend a voice to the fact that they are tired of being taken advantage of by men.

In Italy, the phrase #QuellaVoltaChe, which translates to “That time when,” has been used by some. Women in Spanish-speaking countries across the world use #YoTambien to highlight their experiences. Arabic speakers in the Middle East and Africa echoed a direct translation of the words “Me Too.” And in France, #BalanceTonPorc, which roughly translates to “snitch out your pig,” became a rallying cry against sexual harassment.

It was while living in France that Kumi Sasaki decided to chronicle her ordeal of being continuously groped over the span of six years while riding trains in Japan. This form of harassment, which started when she was just 12 years old, is not an uncommon practice in Japan. In fact, several strategies have been put in place in order to try and restrict such abhorrent behavior.

Railway companies have created women-only cars on their trains, anti-groping posters are placed in some stations, lectures have been held at schools to inform pupils what to do to protect themselves from being groped, and anti-groping paraphernalia such as stickers and badges have been circulating. There is even an anti-groping function in the Metropolitan Police’s crime-prevention app, “Digi Police.” With the app, the words “Grope – please help me” appear when it’s opened, and when it’s tapped on, a voice saying “Please stop!” is repeatedly played.

Nonetheless, despite the efforts to curb chikan (a Japanese term for both men who grope women and the act of touching someone without their consent on crowded trains), it is still quite prevalent.

Sasaki, who currently lives in Paris, published her book, titled “Tchikan,” last November. In it, she recounted her arduous experience of dealing with chikan from middle school to high school on an almost daily basis on her commute from home to school and back.

Recalling her first chikan experience while on Tokyo’s JR Yamanote Line, Sasaki recounts feeling a man’s hand rub against her – a hand that she thought would have stopped touching her when the train stopped jerking, but it remained.

“The fingers of this unfamiliar hand went inside the collar of my blouse. Then he touched my back, he touched my legs, my waist, even my butt. He placed his hand directly under the cheeks, quietly raising up my skirt by just moving his fingers, and he touched my left thigh under my skirt,” she wrote.

The vile intrusion sent Sasaki into shock, as at such a young age, she had no idea what was happening.


Unfortunately, that was just the beginning, and for the next six years, she continued to be preyed upon by men ranging in age from late teens to older men in their 70s. Sasaki also recalled an incident of being followed home by one of the gropers – a married man in his 50s who apparently wanted her to have his children.

Under the strain of these continuous attacks, Sasaki’s psyche became fragile and she turned to self-harm and tried to end her life. Thankfully, however, she was eventually saved by a supportive friend.

Japan’s Chikan Epidemic

Groping on trains has been an issue in Japan for decades. In a survey by Tokyo Metropolitan Police and the JR Railway Company which was conducted in the early 2000s, it was found that two-thirds of women aged 20-40 reported having had some experience of chikan. It was this survey that prompted some railway companies to establish ladies’ cars at certain rush hour periods and others to offer “women only” cars all day long.


The problem with chikan, however, proves quite difficult to overcome. Because even though there are such strategies, fines, and even imprisonment for the offense, it still persists.

Recently, social media users began boasting of plans to grope high school girls who would be commuting to take the annual Center Test. This test is a major exam in Japan and a high score is required for students to gain admission into many Japanese colleges. Unfortunately for the examinees, the Center Test can only be taken at a regional test venue on specified days, which means there are usually a lot of young train commuters on those days. And using the importance of the test and its strict policy on punctuality, these sexual predators see the exam as an opportunity to commit chikan without fear of being reported by the victims.

Sasaki’s goal for writing “Tchikan” was to bring awareness to how dangerous chikan really is and how it can rob girls and women of their sense of well-being and even worse. She states that many people in Japan think it’s not a big deal, and this almost nonchalant treatment of chikan had left her feeling isolated and unable to seek the necessary help that she needed.

An essential first step to a much wider issue, chikan is one woman’s way of adding voice to the ever-growing conversation about the different forms of abuse that countless women have to endure on a daily basis. And for each voice that is added, we can only hope that better faculties will be put into place to tackle these issues.

 Connect Magazine

Baby elephant saves ‘drowning’ human despite crushing life


A recent viral video shows a baby elephant rushing into a raging river to help a man who she thought was drowning.

The touching scene was captured on camera in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where the five-year-old calf, Kham Lha, noticed Darrick Thomson struggling in the deep torrent.

Leaving her fellow elephants on the bank, the tiny rescuer raced into the river towards Thomson to lend a trunk to her special friend.

When you see the video, you might think, “Aww, that’s all kinds of cute!” But there’s a heart-wrenching reason behind Kham Lha being on that riverbank.

The river is a part of a protected jungle sanctuary where dozens of rescued elephants are able to roam around freely.

Kham Lha was rescued last year from an abusive owner and was nursed back to health by Thomson, who’d moved from Canada to work with Elephants in Thailand at the Save Elephant Foundation.

According to Thomson: “Kham Lha was in a really bad way when she came to us. She had been tied up and forced to undergo cruel training known as crushing to prepare her to work in the tourist industry. We freed her and helped her to recover. She became really close to me and we formed a strong bond. I went in the river to show just how remarkable the relationship with humans is. And that if you show warmth and kindness to them, they will treat you well, too.”

The technique known as crushing is one that is horrid and cruel. Young elephants are prepared for the tourist industry by being restrained and continuously beaten until they’re submissive – which is all for the thrills of vacationers having a safe and subdued elephant to ride around and take pictures with.

Because of such abhorring cruelty, some of these animals, which of course do have feelings,  are left internally broken and scarred for the rest of their lives.

Luckily, Kham Lha was one of the few who was able to make a relatively quick recovery thanks to the constant care of staffers at the rescue foundation.

“We’re all really pleased with Kham Lha’s progress and how well she’s adapted,” a spokesman for the foundation stated. “She’s now a happy young elephant. The video shows just how close she is to Darrick, and it’s an important lesson to be kind to animals.”

According to senior wildlife and veterinary adviser at World Animal Protection Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach, “Tourists may think activities like riding an elephant do no harm, but the brutal truth is that breaking these animals’ spirits to the point that they allow humans to interact with them involves cruelty at every turn.”

So, the next time you go on a holiday somewhere and think about riding an elephant or being allowed to get up close and personal with animals that should be out in the wild, think about what those animals had to endure for you to be able to smile and take pictures with them.

Image via SWNS: South West News Service

Lend your voice to stop the practice of crushing

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